The ferry was sailing at about 22:30 so we had the luxury of the whole of Saturday to prepare for the trip. The first job was for Podge to navigate Mummi D and Aunti G over to Marko’s place to pick the Espace. On reflection, perhaps this should have been an omen. Having to navigate the support crew 12 miles across home territory. This was the support crew that would be going ahead of the riders each day through Spain and France to find accommodation and to make sure the route was ok. As it happened, Spain and France seemed easier than West Sussex.
Having collected the Espace and said our farewells to Marko (he was going to fly out to meet us ion Bilbao as he was busy with the Blues on the Farm weekend), both Mummi D and Aunti G thought they would treat the Espace to Car Wash. What a pity the sunroof wasn’t waterproof. This generated a severe case of wet bums for several hours. The first important task was to whiz over to Tessa to collect a massive supply of flapjacks which were immediately quality controlled. It was then over to Barreg Cycles to meet Reg The Hedge for loading bikes, etc. With all rear seats taken out, we managed to cram in luggage for seven (enough for 12 days), 6 push bikes (one spare), eight spare wheels, one cycle maintenance rack, one wheel alignment jig, just under 200 flapjacks, 20 spare water bottles, three dozen energy gels, two full tool kits, one full first aid kit, spare tyres, spare tubes, spare brakes, spare pedals, one two gallon water container and one five gallon water container, photographic and video equipment and 336 assorted vitamin tablets just to help Podge get thought the 12 days (28 a day!). So, full marks here to the Renault Espace.
Having compressed the full inventory in to the Espace, Mummi D & Aunti G went of for lunch while Reg continued to man Barreg Cycles. Marko continued with his business at the Blues on the Farm Festival. All others went home to rest up. We all agreed to meet at The Castle just outside the Ferry Port to try out the pickled eggs and a drink or two. The usual fond farewells to those going off “to the Front” having been made, riders and support headed for the ferry. Support driving the Espace, the riders running behind.
First snag!! The girl at P&O wouldn’t let the “walk-on” contingent through – said they should all be in the Espace! It was politely pointed out that Espace, full front to rear, floor to roof!! couldn’t possibly take another item, let alone four cyclists. The initial suggestion from the girl that an extra £400 would do the job was greeted by chorus of “no way”. After some calls and discussions with her colleagues however, they agreed that they would allow us on as a walk-on gang who subsequently got on the bus as foot passengers and bussed to ship. All met up on board. Cabins check out OK: then on to explore the ship.
In anticipation of a seriously hard 12 days of riding looming, the Recce Crew naturally curtailed the amount of drink they consumed, electing instead to concentrate on taking on large amounts of Carbohydrate and Water. In addition, the crew utilised a lot of the spare time during the voyage stretching and generally trying to prepare their bodies for the challenges ahead. In between such times, they would check and double check the meticulously planned route so as to ensure that each member knew exactly where they were going, their individual roles throughout the ride and of course agree those crucial water and food stops. On both evenings, the crew were in bed by 10:00 so as to ensure that they all got a good eight to ten hours sleep.
Who on earth wrote that rubbish? Now lets have the truth.
Having boarded the ferry and satisfied themselves that the cabins were fine, the next stop was the bar, followed by the restaurant, followed by the bar and another bar. The last riders finally called it a day at about 03:00.
The next day a full and hearty breakfast was enjoyed by all riders before moving on for coffee and to find a place where they could settle down, pop some painkillers, and review the chosen route against the plethora of maps that had been brought along. It would have been even better if all the maps were the right ones, still never mind. Podge went and bought a book on hotels and guesthouses in Spain so that suitable accommodation could be found before arrival. The book proved useless, as nobody was 100% certain of the route to be taken, so, the choice was taken to ‘wing it’ each day.
Anyway, lunchtime arrived, so once again the bar was hit; though not too seriously as there was a cycle ride looming the next day. In the afternoon, armed with a couple of reserve beers, and having looked at the maps of Bilbao, it was decided that it would be better to catch a taxi to the nearest point outside of town. The place selected was to be Bedia.
Much of the route planning had to take place against the background of some football match being played between Germany and Brazil. Anyway, as the evening drew nearer, it was yet again; time to get ready for another splendid meal in the restaurant to be washed down by some rather fine wine and cognac. And so, to bed nice and early (sic).